Obama addresses US
In his inaugural State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Barack Obama pushed back against mounting criticism and pressed forward with promises of a new jobs creation bill to counter unemployment, as well as a federal spending freeze effective in 2011 to fight the federal deficit.
Taking a humble approach, Obama readily admitted to making mistakes in his first year in office, but took a resilient stance on the congressional healthcare reform bill, which he has backed, and stood by the decision to bail out banks as necessary to prevent a depression.
“When I ran for president, I promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular — I would do what was necessary,” Obama said. “And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost. “
While realizing the bailout, and subsequent bonus payouts by bailed out firms such as AIG, have hurt his administration’s credibility, the president hoped to use $30 billion in money recovered from banks to extend credit to small businesses, in addition to proposed small business tax credits for hiring new employees or raising wages.
“I think he’s held his coalition together (along with some independents) temporarily,” UH assistant professor of political science Brandon Rottinghaus said of the president’s speech via email. “But all presidents face this problem: their coalition attenuates over the course of their time in office.
“The President’s strategy is to try to keep his electoral coalition intact for long enough to get his core legislative agenda passed and situate himself positively for the 2010 elections,” he said.
Rottinghaus also added that having the president wait until the middle of his speech to mention the health care debate reflected the administration’s confidence that the bill could pass without a full push from the White House.
Obama also used the evening as a chance to promote education reforms, including plans to make college more affordable for students.
“To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans,” he said. “Instead, let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants.”
The President also encouraged both Republicans and Democrats to work together on bills, and received a mixed response from Republicans when referring to the stalled energy bill and global warming, as well as when he challenged GOP leadership to cooperate in the Senate.
“We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent — a belief that if you lose, I win,” Obama said, adding that the American people cannot wait on such politics.
The president addressed foreign policy by saying he and the American people would stand by the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, while emphasizing a pullout in the former and issuing a warning to Iran’s government should it continue to ignore the international community on its covert nuclear program.
Toward the end of his speech, Obama touched on domestic issues with a pledge to end the controversial “Don’t ask. Don’t tell,” military policy regarding gays in the military, and a renewed push for an “equal pay for equal work” law for women in the workplace.
The Republicans used their opportunity to respond by enlisting newly-elected Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell to issue a rebuttal to the president on issues ranging from the deficit to healthcare.
“All Americans agree that we need health — health care system that is affordable, accessible, and high quality,” McDonnell said. “But most Americans do not want to turn over the best medical care system in the world to the federal government.”